An Ordinary Juror Part 2/4
Updated: Mar 28, 2019
After jury selection, I arrived home anxious to share my experience with Jay. I had been selected as a juror for a criminal case and could not wait to get started. I knew that I could only talk to him about today's events and that moving forward I would have to keep silent until the trial's conclusion. I enjoyed sharing the psychology I thought must be behind jury selection. I also had fun sharing the funny moments that occurred. So far this was an enlightening and fun experience.
I got a good night's sleep and walked the 10 minutes to the courthouse in the cold while displaying my yellow "juror" badge.
i walked through the metal detectors and checked my purse through like the day before, greeting the officers that were gathered there.. I walked up the 2 flights of stairs to find my fellow jurors waiting in the foyer. I hadn't paid attention to them the day before, but today we got to chat for a short time. We were a group of 10 women and 3 men (although at the time I didn't; realize there was an alternate amongst us) There were 2 men younger than me and 3 women that were in their 70's. There was one African American woman, one darker skinned woman, possibly from India, and the rest of us were white and about my age.
We took our seats as we entered the courtroom just as we had the day before.. I'm not entirely sure if that was a requirement but it's what we did. I was seated in the front row so not only did I have a good view, but everyone had a good view of me and Julie on my left and a young man on my right leaning back very casually in his chair.... as he remained for the entire trial. We picked up our notebooks and pens that had been given to us and the judge read the charges.
The charges: Statutory sodomy of a 10 year old.
And the man sitting at the defense table this entire time, he wasn’t another lawyer, he was the defendant!
I have to say when I first saw him the previous day, I didn't think he looked like a lawyer, with his mullet pulled back into a ponytail and very rough look. But I also didn't want to be assumptive. Putting a face with those charges proved to me more difficult that I anticipated.
The judge explained that should we find him guilty, the minimum sentence was 10 years in jail and the maximum was life. He had already served 2 years right there in the Clay County Detention Center just a mile from my home. I imagined what that might be like for him, especially knowing the charges.
We were given a few details about our day. We would spend no longer than 2 hours at a time in the jury box before we would be given a break. The paper and pen was for notes. Nobody would ever see them and we were not allowed to take them with us. The judge warned us that taking notes might keep us from paying attention, so listening was the most important. And from this point forward we were not allowed to discuss the case with anyone, not our fellow jurors, not our spouse, nobody.
The lawyers began their opening statements. I was again impressed with the prosecuting attorneys and kept wondering things like, "What do they wear when they aren't in court? I wonder what their day to day life is like? Do they laugh and have fun?" Because let's face it, I was going to be sitting in this room watching them for a long time and they were very serious. As a matter of fact, i don't think I've ever spent so much time being serious in my life.
And then there were the words they had to use to describe this heinous crime. I won't go into details here, but let's just say that i never did get used to it.
The witnesses, the testimony, the order of events for the rest of this day, is fuzzy to me now. To be honest, I was so tired after each day that I just didn't have it in me to write and at the time hadn't planned on writing about it anyway. I just wanted to come home and go to sleep.
I do know that we heard from several witnesses; a police officer, the lead investigator for crimes against children, the mother of the 10 year old victim, the nurse at the Children's hospital that performed the rape tests on the victim, and most interestingly of all, the forensics specialist. I took notes on her credentials thinking my son might really like this career.
We heard the entire story from the mom who walked in on this crime and called the police immediately. Her daughter was immediately taken to the hospital via ambulance. We learned how the victim was tested and how the DNA came in to play. We also heard from the police that pulled over the defendant since he had run away from the crime scene.
Hearing about what happens during an physical exam with a child after sexual abuse proved to be more than I ever cared to know. Most surprisingly, I learned that children that have been repeatedly sexually abused are typically not emotional during this process. You could tell that the two experts were convinced that this absolutely did happen to this child and that the defendant was the perpetrator.
"Septillion" I had never heard that number before today. I took notes. I wrote down information about the DNA in various locations having a hunch that might come in handy. Turns out I was the only one to write that down and I was sure glad that I did.
*600 million times a match
*300 septillion times a match
*600 septillion times a match.....so yes, pretty sure he's the guy that did it not to mention the mom walking in on them.. But try convincing one juror of that was a different story. More on that later.
We took a two hour lunch break after two hours of testimony so that the judge could meet with the attorneys in addition to allowing time to eat. I walked home, had lunch, did a couple of errands and tried to relax a little.
Surprisingly, the testimony concluded after our lunch break. .The defense didn't have much to share, which left me wondering, "Why did this guy bring this to court? What was he hoping or thinking would happen and what was the defense attorney thinking would happen? "Because to be frank, she just didn't have a case, and her arguments were weak.
She claimed that the DNA might have been transmitted to the girl from toilet paper that the defendant touched and the girl used. What? Seriously with those DNA stats?
She said that he was drunk so he doesn't remember. Who cares?
She tried to accuse the investigator doing the interrogating of coercing the defendant into admission. Uh, don't think so since we got to watch the entire interrogation and it was no different than when I call a student in to the hall to ask them about something, although this took much longer.
But I was also wondering, "Am I the only one seeing this for what it is? What is everyone else thinking?"
As the judge was excusing us to to head in to the jury deliberation room he said that everyone would go except Julie. Julie was the woman I met from the first few moments we arrived on day one. We had become friendly, always checking in with each other before and after breaks. I liked her! Our instructions were short.
*Choose a foreperson
*The foreperson instructions would be in blue and everyone else would have copy. if we had a question for the court we had to flip a switch and then wait for the bailiff to knock. He would come to the door and retrieve our question sheet. That was it.
I walked past Julie and we just looked at each other confused. As we filed into the room. I took a quick inventory. Most of the room was occupied by a big table and chairs. There was a mini fridge, coffee maker, and chalkboard without chalk. Later we found out there were two bathrooms. This place was set for a group that was not going to be leaving for a while.
I was ready to take the lead as I usually am in a group setting. But I am also always aware if there is someone else that displays more leadership qualities than I. I waited, I watched. I talked.
I said, "So I guess these are our papers." And I started passing them down the long table. "Should we wait for Julie?" I said, having NO idea that she was the alternate and that she wouldn't be joining us. Someone mentioned that she was the alternate and I was a little embarrassed that I hadn't realized it.
Another juror said, "We have to pick a foreperson. and I vote you."
A few nodded.
I just waited.
The woman across from me, darker skin, a little older than me said, "Well, there are only 3 men here. Maybe we should have a man do it." I thought that was a little odd, but I was to find out later that everything about her was a little odd to me.
I waited again.
Then I said, "Well, I am fine with being foreperson unless there is someone else that would rather do it."
"I think you should do it," said the woman beside me.,
"Okay, I tell you what. I will do it but we have to do this as a group. None of us know what we are doing so let's work together to get this done."
Eleven of us worked together. One of us did not.
To be continued....